Get Your Toddler Talking with guest Jill Urbane

About this Episode

Communication and language in early childhood is intricately connected to behavior and social-emotional development. Every temper tantrum is an attempt to communicate an unmet need. How do we help young children develop effective communication skills? On this episode of Brainy Moms, Dr. Amy and Sandy interview the Mentor Mom, Jill Urbane.

Jill is an early childhood interventionist and social worker who specializes in the connection between speech development, emotions, social skills, and behavior. She shares the importance of recognizing our own temperament and communication style and its impact on our child’s behavior. She talks about big emotions in little children and how emotions impact communication. Jill walks us through the development of foundational language skills, what to look for, and what to do if we see red flags. We even spend time talking about the benefits of infant/toddler sign language in the development of language skills. Tune in for some fantastic facts and tips in helping your toddler communicate effectively.

About Jill

Jill Urbane is an Early Childhood Interventionist and Masters level Social Worker who has worked with families in their homes for nearly thirty years. In that time, she has supported hundreds of families by providing them with the foundational knowledge and skills to help them support their child’s learning, growth and development all while helping them find their
parenting mojo. She specializes in toddler speech, social emotional development and behavior. 

Connect with Jill


Mentioned in this Episode

Link to Jill’s course, How to Get Your Toddler Talking.

Link to Joseph Garcia’s infant/toddler sign language program, Sign with Your Baby 

Our sponsor:
LearningRx is a worldwide network of brain training centers offering cognitive, reading, and math remediation and enhancement for all ages. LearningRx has worked with more than 106,000 clients who have learning struggles and disabilities, ADHD, traumatic brain injury, autism, and age-related cognitive decline. Visit or call 1-866-BRAIN-01 to learn more. 

Listen or Subscribe to our Podcast

Watch us on YouTube

Read the transcript for this episode:

Dr. Amy Moore: Hi, and welcome to this episode of Brainy Moms brought to you today by LearningRx training centers. I’m your host, Dr. Amy Moore, coming to you today from my parents’ house in scorching hot Florida. And I’m joined by my co-host Sandy Zamalis who’s just a few states north of me in Virginia, where it might be almost as hot there too.

Sandy Zamalis: It is.  

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah. Um, our guest today is social worker and early childhood interventionist, Jill Urbane. Jill has been helping parents of toddlers and preschoolers for almost 25 years. She’s helped thousands of parents build a strong foundation for success by providing strategies that help them understand, connect, and implement developmentally appropriate interventions with their child. As part of daily routines, she’s worked with so many parents that she’s now known as the Mentor Mom, and she specializes in toddler speech, social-emotional development, and behavior.

Sandy Zamalis: Hi, Jill, welcome to the show.

Jill Urbane: Hello ladies. So nice to be here. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Sandy Zamalis: Absolutely. Amy and I are super excited to talk with you about these topics today and especially about looking at them through a cognitive development lens. But before we get started, we would love to hear more about your background and how you found yourself on this path of being the Mentor Mom. Where did this journey start for?

Jill Urbane: Wow. It’s really interesting. I started out, uh, working in a prison with, um, adult offenders, but they were in the 15 to 20 year age group. And, um, I was always kind of just, um, I guess saddened by the fact that they were so brilliant. A lot of these young men that I was working with and we were doing a cognitive behavioral, um, thinking program to try to reprogram their thoughts that they were having, that were driving some of their antisocial behaviors. And I thought, gosh, if I could do something to keep these young men from even ending up here and it all starts with the family. So, from there, I went to go and become a, uh, child, child protective services worker here in Michigan. And that was enlightening. I did that for about five years and then an opportunity came up for me to move into an early intervention program in a local school district. So I went in, I, I bugged the, the special ed director for, I think two months. I called her every week. Have you hired anybody? Have you hired anybody? Cause I, I just had this feeling that this is where I needed to be and I’ve been there ever since. Uh, I love it. There’s nothing that I can imagine myself doing that would make me happier because it’s such an honor to work with families in their home and to be there for those firsts, you know, when a toddler says their first word or when they take their first steps and also just to support families in what I think is one of the most challenging and important stages of parenting and development for kids.

Dr. Amy Moore: That is an interesting route that you took to get to the littles and to the parents of littles.

Jill Urbane: And isn’t it funny because that was never on my radar when I was going to college and when I was planning my career, but that’s just a Testament to right. Following your gut. And you always end up where you’re supposed to be if you follow your gut.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah, absolutely. All right. So, uh, you specialize in, um, helping parents understand, uh, child development. Why is that important that they understand that?

Jill Urbane: Well, I think that, you know, my, my premises is that when we understand the development, it makes it easier to really. Make sure that the interventions and the things that we’re doing with our kids are developmentally appropriate. Right? I mean, I’ve over the years had so many parents whose expectations for their child were up here, but developmentally they were here and it’s like, oh, we, if we understand where your child is at and what’s going on with their brain, what’s going on with social emotional development, then it makes it easier I think for them to not take a lot of the things that their children are doing personally.

Dr. Amy Moore: Absolutely it. So is there a difference in your mind between developmentally appropriate and age appropriate?

Jill Urbane: Um, yeah, I guess so. I mean, I think we always need to focus on where our child is at. You know, where, where are their skills? I mean, they can be fantastic with their motor skills, but their understanding. I think we really have to have the big picture of our kids. And I think that’s one of the things that I really focus with on parents as an early childhood educator, is I might be there to help you with your speech, your child’s speech, but we need to look at the big picture. You know, if they’re having constant meltdowns, you know, then we need to work on that piece right there before we can get to working on getting words coming. Right. Because if they’re melting down all the time, they’re not hearing what we’re saying. If the brain is in distress and feeling all of those big emotions.

Sandy Zamalis: I like that focus that you have of really wanting to understand your unique individual child. Um, you talk a lot about, um, you know, different temperaments and those kinds of things. What can you share with our listeners, you know, research you’ve done and how parents can understand their child’s temperament a little bit better.

Jill Urbane: Yeah. Um, I have, I’m a big consumer. I read every single morning. I believe in filling my toolbox as much as I can with as much information about child development. And one thing I’ve learned for sure, in being in homes for 20 plus years is there are lots of different, not just temperament types, but child communication types, and sometimes how that works with the parent. Sometimes it, you know, they’re butting heads and other times they’re doing too much. And I think it’s really important for parents, not just to recognize their own child’s temperament and communication styles, but also as a parent to look at our own. And that’s that whole big picture of how everything works together. I’ve had a lot of parents over the years that were kind of expecting their child’s gonna do things the way that they wanna do ’em and their child is like, well, that’s not how I work. and of course I learned that as a parent. I found the early childhood years to be so challenging. Ooh. I had a rough go with my, my first born, who he was something.

Dr. Amy Moore: Um, so let’s talk about brain science and. There’s been a huge push in the last decade, right? We’ve learned so much in the last decade about brain science and brain development. And so how can we use our understanding of brain science to enhance our own child’s development?

Jill Urbane: Well, I think the biggest piece that I focus on with parents is understanding because of course, toddlers and preschoolers are having big emotions, right. They’re having meltdowns or they’re having tantrums. So I work with parents to, first of all, understand the difference between the two, cause there’s a difference. But there’s some overlap and helping parents to understand that during those moments of big emotion, now what we know about the brain sciences, trying to talk to your child during that moment, you know,

Dr. Amy Moore: Not gonna happen.

Jill Urbane: It’s not gonna happen. You know, it’s like we need to, we need to get them back down to that. Calm down zone, the, the space where they can actually hear. And I, I try to reference a lot of my discussions with parents on. Let’s let’s look at this from an adult perspective. If you are really, really angry about something and somebody is talking to you and telling you, you need to calm down and you need to listen to me, how would we respond as a parent, as a, as an adult in that moment? You know, I mean, when I’m really upset, I just, I just wanna be left alone. I need quiet. I need to be able to calm myself and I try to help parents to understand. Our littles brains are, are working in the same way, but they don’t have near the coping skills that we have learned over the many years of our life.

So understanding that, that piece of the brain development, I love the book, uh, the whole brain child, you know, the downstairs brain and the upstairs brain. And I use that a lot of times with parents to help them kind of understand, you know, toddlers aren’t living in the upstairs brain yet. They’re living downstairs. They’ve got a rickety set of steps that they’re building to get to the upstairs, but they’re not living up there yet.

Sandy Zamalis: And do you, do you teach parents that with that perspective of that unique individual child, where you’re looking at temperaments, cuz not every child’s gonna, uh, respond to, you know, one pat soothing technique, right?

Jill Urbane: Absolutely. I mean, you know, and I think that’s something that sometimes is frustrating for parents too. There are some kids who they wanna be held during that moment. There are other kids that they need to be left alone and parents are trying to hold them to comfort them. And everything about that, child’s communication is saying, I don’t want that. It’s too much. So it’s really, I really tried again, to focus on like the whole child, you know, understanding the sensory system and the impact that that has on learning and the child’s preferences, understanding what’s going on with their brain development, understanding the communication. What are we as a parent bringing? I think. As a parent and, and I can say this for myself too, that when my children were young, I was kinda like, well, this is how it’s gonna be right. This is, I know what I’m doing. I think, and this is how it’s gonna be. And then kids just throw a monkey wrench and all of that, like, well, that might work for you, mom, but that does not work for me. And it really taught me in that time that I need to understand my kids better. I need to understand what works for them and then do the intervention and the strategies. It can’t be the way that I think it’s gonna be. Right.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah. And that you have to relinquish some power there, right.

Jill Urbane: A lot.

Dr. Amy Moore: And that’s a difficult mindset shift for many people.

Jill Urbane: Boy, isn’t that the truth. Right. And then I think too, the challenge is trying to find that balance is apparent. Like, you know, I. You’re either doing too much or you’re doing too little and trying to find that balance in between where you give control, where you still have to have those rules and boundaries, cuz we have to keep kids safe. And it’s really tricky when you don’t have a lot of tools in your toolbox and experience and you know, kids have free will , which is great. But sometimes as a parents, it’s frustrating that they have those little individual personalities and, and all of that. So I, I, I hate using the word balance, but it really is about balance. I think sometimes just trying to figure out all of the different pieces and find a way to put that puzzle together in a way that works for the parent and the child and the family as a whole.

Sandy Zamalis: So you are an expert in toddler speech. So, um, let’s talk about kind of expectations that parents, um, might have in that arena and how parents can maybe understand their toddler, um, a little bit better in those moments of distress. Um, what language milestones should parents be aware of and what are some red flags that indicate there might be a delay in speech development?

Jill Urbane: So one of the things that I always talk with parents about is the foundational language skills that need to be in place before words are gonna come. And that’s not something that they really talk about a lot in parenting books. You know, we have to have engagement. I have to have interest in, in a communication partner. I have to have interest in the environment. I have to be responding to things around me and the environment. I have to be, have an interest in toys and objects. And when we think of engagement, you know, that’s, that’s kind of the starting stage with infants, right? Where they’re showing interest in us. As we’re talking, they’re responding to sounds that they’re hearing around them in the environment. They’re starting to notice this toy in front of me.

The next stage is circles of communication or that back and forth where we’re building on these interactions. Right. And getting that, that, that back and forth where they’re recognizing I can do something and elicit a response from somebody. I can coo and my mom coos back. And that’s when the baby is like, what? Wow, that was pretty cool. Let me try that again. So we wanna build on these back and forth circles of communication.

The next is comprehension. Now that we have engagement and back and forth communication,.now they’re focusing on, on more of us. We can work on the communication and understanding, oh, did you want more of that? Do you want more tickles? Whatever words about helping them to tune into the language part.

Then we have initiation. Kids have to take an active lead in letting us know their wants and needs. And then finally there’s imitation. They have to be imitating our, our actions, our sounds, and our words when those foundational skills are in place. We’re at the top of the stairs and ready to start getting some words coming. And whenever I do webinars or classes on this with parents, they’re always like, oh, wow, okay.

We’re struggling with, with comprehension or my child’s not initiating it all because I’m doing everything for him. You know, I’m handing him his cup. Before he even needs anything, right. Or my child’s not imitating because I didn’t know that was something that we should be working on. So when we understand those foundational language skills, that’s when we’re able to really move towards those words. And the hard part is I always use the analogy. That language is like a light that’s on a dimmer switch. Now there are some kids that come out and that switch has turned all the way up from day one. That would be my son. Early talker, lots of language. Some kids come out that language light is turned way down. That would be my daughter 18 months and she really only had maybe two or three words and I do this for a living. Right. But I had to look at what was I doing and what was going on with her foundational language skills. I was not giving her opportunities for initiation. I’m getting milk for your brother. I might as well get milk for you, right? Oh, we it’s time for a bed. I’m not gonna make you do any work during this process. We’re just gonna pick up, let him pick up the books. Right. So I wasn’t giving her opportunities for initiation. So it’s really understanding, I think, those foundational language skills and recognizing those things that need to be in place before the words come. Once those are solid kids usually take off.

Sandy Zamalis: What do you recommend parents do? If they start to see some of these red flags like they’re, um, their child’s not speaking or initiating.

Jill Urbane: Well, first of all, if they have a concern about it, I would suggest that they talk to their pediatrician or reach out to their local early intervention agency. And don’t wait, I hear this from moms all the time. Well, I’m not sure. Maybe I shouldn’t. I think I’m gonna give it time and other moms, a lot of times wanna support that parent and say, oh, he’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it. My kid didn’t talk until he was three. And I’m like, we have things out there to help parents now. Don’t wait if your little gut is telling you that something’s not right or that you’re worried. Why? Wait.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah. You know, so listeners, you can’t see Jill unless you’re watching us on YouTube, but she was using, um, some infant toddler sign language as she was talking. I noticed the sign for more mm-hmm um, do you recommend that parents, um, add signs, um, with verbal speech as well?

Jill Urbane: I think sign language is a fantastic way to stimulate language. I know over the years I’ve had a lot of parents say, well, I don’t want my child talking in sign language. It’s it’s not, that’s not the goal to get them using sign language. But when we think about imitation and about 85% of toddlers who have speech and language delays, they’re not. So that is one of the biggest steps and foundational language skills. When we think about imitation kids usually start by imitating our gestures, then they imitate our sounds. Then they imitate our words. I always tell parents gestures are a bridge to get to words. So if we’re signing more right. And then our child starts to sign more. The key is, is that when we model it back, we need to continue to say the word with that gesture until our child is saying the word with that gesture. I kinda like to use the example of teaching a little one, the itsy bitsy spider in the beginning, we’re doing the song and they’re watching like, wow, that’s really cool. Over time. They might do the gesture for the out. Over time, they might actually say out with continued repetition. Doing it over and over with those sounds with those gestures. Eventually they’re gonna be able to sing the words with the gestures. So with baby sign language, using the example of more, once our child is consistently saying more with that sign, we no longer need the sign. They have the word we drop the sign.

Sandy Zamalis: Yeah. I imagine that enables children to communicate much earlier than their cognitively, uh, ready to speak.

Jill Urbane: Absolutely. Absolutely. And you know, the other, the other aspect that I think a lot of parents don’t think about sometimes is the complexity of the motor planning part of speech. You know, I always ask parents to say the word cat. Out loud. Right. And when we, when I have them do that, I’m like, did you realize that you took the back of your tongue up to the back of your pallet, you exhaled, and then you moved your tongue up to the back of the top of your teeth and they’re like, no. And I’m like, yeah, that’s a lot of, that’s a lot of motor planning and our little ones they’re, they’re not there yet sometimes. And so giving them a way to communicate their wants and needs using those gestures, which toddlers are natural gesturers. Anyhow, just enables them to be able to further understand the power of communication. The sooner we can light that fire with our children, the easier it’s gonna be to get them to words, because they’re already gonna be motivated to know there are things that I can do actively to let people know what I want or to initiate communication for a social interaction. Like to let you know that there’s a plane flying over the house. And I like planes.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah, I read a study about, oh, go ahead, Sandra.

Sandy Zamalis: Nope. I was just gonna say, I imagine that really curbs frustration too, for young children.

Jill Urbane: Yeah, absolutely. It does. You know, when they can communicate their wants and needs. I mean, It’s easier than if I can’t and I’m just gonna, I’ve had many kids over the years where they just go into the kitchen and lay down in front of the refrigerator and just scream. That’s how they let their moms and dads know I’m hungry. Right. And I’m always like, we need to move to a higher level of communication. That’s how, you know, having, having a repertoire of some sign language I gestures that they can use helps turn that language light up.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yeah. I wanna come back to that in just a second. Um, I read a study and I mean, it’s been at least a decade since I read it, but it was on infant sign language and the results showed something like, um, children who learn infant sign language have 60% greater vocabulary by the time they turn two than children who don’t. And it was wow. The study was really interesting because it kind of allayed those fears that some parents have well if my kid is speaking in signs, then how will they actually have normal language development? Right. And you know, the proponents are saying they’re actually going to have accelerated language development, um, by learning signs.

Jill Urbane: Absolutely. I mean, there’s all sorts of studies out there that even talk about the impact that it has on, um, education later on and the better test scores. I mean, there’s all sorts of research out there on the benefits of baby sign language. Now I will. Not every little one likes baby sign language. So there are gonna be some toddlers who are gonna be like, no, don’t even put your hands together in front of me. I don’t, I don’t wanna have anything to do with that’s.

Dr. Amy Moore: But as a parent, you can still use it, right? Because there’s still. And they can still comprehend when you’ve, when you’re pairing a gesture with a sound. Right?

Jill Urbane: Absolutely. And I, you know, I always tell parents, you know, maybe if your little one has decided they don’t wanna do the sign for more, but they’re using some other gesture, put the word with their gesture. You know, if your child is raising their hands up, instead of just picking them up, model the. Up before you pick them up so that they’re realizing when I do this, I should be saying up when I’m pointing to the window, I should be saying, look, when I’m pulling you off of the couch, I should be saying something like, come.

Or when I’m pulling you down to the floor to play with me, down, always pair a word with their gestures that also helps them to realize the power of that.

Dr. Amy Moore: Fantastic. So do you have a particular sign program that you recommend to parents? Cuz I know our listeners right now are saying, okay, where do I start?

Jill Urbane: Uh, you know, I love Joseph Garcia, um, Sign with Your Baby. That’s what, um, I founded, you know, what I used, uh, as I was getting into this field, uh, I like his because he simplifies some. I know, you know, and I’m gonna say as a, as a parent, I mean, you gotta do what feels best in your skin. Um, but knowing the motor planning part of it, I liked how he simplified some signs.

Like for example, the sign for help in American Sign Language is quite, um, a motor planning kind of thing to do. Whereas his is just a merely tapping on a chest. So I like his program, but again, parents have to find what works best for them and what they feel most comfortable with. But I want them to know that it doesn’t always have to be ASL. You know, it can be a gesture that their child came up with and they can use that as a word and continue to pair it with their gestures.

Dr. Amy Moore: All right. So you were talking about, um, what happens when a child throws himself in front of the refrigerator and is screaming because they want a snack. And when we automatically respond to the temper tantrum in front of the refrigerator, what are we doing when we do that?

Jill Urbane: We’re telling ’em that that’s acceptable communication and that’s how you get what you want. And I think this is probably the most challenging part of working on speech with toddlers for parents is because. Sometimes, I think they feel like if they are ignoring that, that they’re not meeting their child’s needs.

So the approach that I suggest is if your little one is, is throwing themselves down in, in having a tantrum is a way of communicating. We’re gonna stay calm. We’re gonna stay near. We’re gonna stay quiet when the child quiets that’s when we’re gonna work on, did you need something out of the refrigerator? Let’s open that. I always tell parents, give the energy to what you want and very little energy to what you don’t, right? So that the child starts to associate when I’m screaming, my parents here and I’m safe, but I’m not necessarily getting what I want, but when I quiet down, my mom works with me to try to figure out and coach me to help understand what it was that I was trying to communicate with her. And it’s not easy. I’m not gonna lie. It’s not an easy process.

Sandy Zamalis: Right. Especially in the middle of the grocery store, right.

Jill Urbane: Oh yeah. Well, I’m gonna say pick and choose your battles too, as a parent. Right. You know, don’t I always tell parents don’t feel like you have to do every strategy all day, every day, if you’re really, really tired or you’re you gotta do what you gotta do as a, as a parent. Right. That’s a really good point.

Dr. Amy Moore: So I was listening to one of your podcast episodes about, uh, toddlers tantrums and talking, I think is what it was called. And so you actually said by responding to a tantrum, we’re impacting a toddler’s brain, right? We’re like reinforcing the neural pathway in their brain, you know, that says, if I do this, then mom will do this. Or then dad will do this.

Jill Urbane: Right. I mean, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And you know, and that’s another big piece of, of my work with parents, right. Is helping to understand brain development and what’s going on in repetition and how those neural pathways are being formed. And what we wanna do is we wanna form new neural pathways that move them towards that higher level of communication. So by responding to and allowing that, that lower level communication of screaming or yelling or tantruming to get what they want. We’re reinforcing that neural pathway that we’re, we wanna get rid of we wanna build a new one. So that’s a really important piece of moving that that language light and turning it up is helping them realize this isn’t working anymore. I gotta move to the next stage. And one thing I always frame for parents is as difficult as it is to listen to our toddlers and to see them struggle. Right. And we wanna go in and we wanna make their lives easier. In the end there, this is just the beginning of an ongoing process for the rest of their life. You achieve one thing and then you think, whew, that’s great. I’ve achieved it. And then there’s a new skill. There’s something harder. There’s always, there’s always steps that they have to climb. And if we can help find a system that works for us as parents and for our children to help them know great. You’re doing that now. Well done. And now we’re gonna work on this so that kids can start to realize like when they get to school, like, oh, it’s always something.

Sandy Zamalis: I heard you say that one of your number, one rules for parenting is to not take things personally and this kind of applies to that, right? Like they’re having a tantrum, but it’s not about you. absolutely personally, um, and just be with them and help them work through this process so that you’re teaching them skills.

Jill Urbane: Yes. And I mean that emotional regulation piece, I mean, I think that’s the hardest, one of the hardest things for parents to understand and to know what to do to help their child to learn that emotional regulation. And again, I mean, a lot of times they frame it in that we can’t, your child can’t learn when their brain is in distress, they can’t hear the words that you’re saying. I mean, they mean nothing to them when they’re upset. So helping them to learn how to calm and to regulate in shorter and shorter periods of time allows more opportunity for them to actually learn and understand more language, which they can then use. Cuz that’s the other piece as well is a lot of times we focus so much on getting our kids to use words that we don’t spend near the amount of time that we need to on helping them understand words. And if I don’t understand that the word apple represents this thing, I can’t tell you that I want an apple, you know, so that’s a really big component that I think, uh, oftentimes gets overlooked in the language development with young kids as well is we’re working so hard on getting them to talk that we’re not working as hard to get ’em to understand.

Sandy Zamalis: Do you think this is hard for parents because it’s actually maybe hard for the parent themselves?

Jill Urbane: Oh, it’s an aspect.

Sandy Zamalis: Um, you know, as a gen Xer I, yes, I know communication wasn’t necessarily something heavily, um, heavily pushed in my childhood, um, and in my family. So, you know, some of us are still working with some pretty rudimentary tools and how to communicate effectively, um, in a family.

Jill Urbane: Absolutely. I mean, and see that’s that whole big picture of, of, of language and behavior. I mean, it’s, it’s not just about these little, it’s the whole package what’s going on within the family dynamic. You know, when I start working with a family, if the family is in distress, because they’ve got other things going on, you know, maybe they’ve got some resource issues and they’re worried about their housing stability or things like that. You gotta start as a parent with what is the thing that is draining the most energy? What is your biggest concern? You know, if we can help alleviate this thing that is worrying and taking all of your time and your energy and your focus. Once that’s resolved, we have more time than to put our energy into the next thing. And that’s one of the things I always tell parents, like, what’s the red zone here? What’s the one thing that’s sucking all of your energy and they’ll be like the constant crying. That’s where we start then, you know, or it might, it might be my five year old. My five year old is driving me crazy. Well, then let’s work on some strategies for that. I may be here to help you with your two year old, but let’s work on some strategies for you to help manage the interaction what’s going on with your five year old. Because if you’re not constantly stressed out by that, then we have more time to have more of the positive kind of interactions as a parent in moments as a parent than the ones that we don’t find as, as positive as a parent.

Dr. Amy Moore: So, um, speaking of siblings, What I notice is sometimes younger siblings speak later because older siblings are doing all of the communicating either because they’re dominating the conversation all of the time or they’re doing the communicating for the younger child. Yes. So, yes. What’s your advice there?

Jill Urbane: So, um, I’ve been on many, many, I mean, I can’t even tell you thousands of home visits over the 20 some years, and there’s always a four or five year old there. And they are like having a picture window walking around with a picture window, telling everything, every what’s going on in the house and parents are always like, oh my God, I can’t believe you told you that. Uh, what I usually suggest appearance in that moment is like, even as a home visitor, I’ll, I’ll say they’ll be like, he needs to go to his room. No, bring him in here. Let’s make him a part of this. He’s a part of it when I’m not here. So how can we work on this with the sibling? And so the strategy that I have found to be the most effective with those siblings who are so communicative is to help ask them to be a teacher. Can you be a teacher helper for your little brother with his language? Can you do this? Like one of the strategies is pairing sounds and actions in play. It’s a great way to work on imitation, pop, pop, pop, boom, boom, boom. If you ask a four or five year old, Hey, can you do this during play with your brother? They’re all over it. So bring them in, get them on board, and then reinforce. You’re such a great teacher to your brother. You’re doing so many wonderful things to help him learn about language.

Dr. Amy Moore: I like that. great. That’s so Vygotskian actually.

Jill Urbane: So they I’m telling you, they make some of the best teachers, especially for those toddlers, they are always looking up to their siblings. And a lot of times I’ve found that they’re more willing to do things for their sibling than they are for the parent.

Sandy Zamalis: When you’re working with. Yeah. Sorry. When you’re working with parents, um, you’ve talked about, you know, um, really working with the end in sight, in mind, right? Yes. So looking at the big picture and then working yourself backwards, what’s your process for, uh, teaching a parent the tool for how to break something down? Cause I imagine you don’t wanna have to give steps for every single interaction or intervention. You’re trying to, you. Break the habit of, um, but how do you go through that process of seeing that onion where, well, what’s the core issue? How do we break that down? How do we address this one thing? What’s something tangible and manageable?

Jill Urbane: Well, so I guess the way that I look at that is I, I try to identify what is the one, one area that the parent is focused on. Right. You know, and I mean, I already talked about like the resource issues or behavior, but if it’s that they’re struggling, let’s say I’ll be like, what is the hardest part of your day with your, with your toddler? And if there’s they’re like meal time, it’s meal time, there’s meltdowns, there’s this going on? Then we’re gonna, let’s do our session during meal time. I’m gonna watch what’s going on. I’m gonna provide feedback because I think the hard thing too for parents is that when they’re in the moment, right, they’re doing this every day, all day. A lot of times they don’t realize you you’re doing this and your child is reacting this way. They, they focus more on the child’s reaction than recognizing what it is. Like. I wish I could videotape every single session and then watch it back with a parent. Cuz a lot of times they’re like, I didn’t even know I did that. And I’m like, I know this is the crazy part of all of this, right? This is how we get to be in tune with ourselves and what we’re doing. So I usually try to start with the one thing that’s driving them, the craziest and where they’re feeling the most frustrated. And then we walk through the process together, look at all of the different components. And that’s where I pop in the information about the development. And really, I think the key is helping them become a really good observer of their child. Right? Like when that spoon is coming in and their little one is turning their head away. Right. And they’re like, come on, come on, come on. I’m like, well, right now, your little one is clearly communicating with you that they don’t want anything to eat. We need to validate that communication for them. When they recognize that you understand, I don’t want any more to eat, then I’m more motivated to have more interactions and communication with you. If you’re gonna keep pushing that spoon in my face, even though I’m turning my head away and I’m shaking my arms in front of you to let you know, I don’t want any, that’s setting up a communication dynamic right there, isn’t it. And it’s not one that’s going benefit that communication back and forth between the parent and the child. So I think a lot of times it’s really helping parents to tune into the messages that our children are already sending that sometimes we miss,

Sandy Zamalis: And to see patterns right. And to oh yeah. And to kind of catch your subconscious reactions to things.

Jill Urbane: Absolutely. Absolutely. Toddlers are so effective at communicating with body language. Facial expressions. And a lot of times parents kind of miss out on it. So that’s, I think one of my biggest roles is helping them to recognize it and tune into it more. And when they do, they can alter their responses to it in a way that helps them get to that end goal quicker.

Dr. Amy Moore: Um, so something that happened with my youngest, um, when he, he was struggling when he was about three and a half, um, with enunciation of different letters. And, um, we had him evaluated by the early childhood department in the local school district and they said, um, he just didn’t have, um, the physical maturity like his tongue actually couldn’t form all of the letters yet and there wasn’t really anything that we should do yet except wait for some additional maturing to happen. Well, then what happened is he spent most of elementary school and speech therapy. So what, what is your recommendation to parents who kind of face a little bit of that pushback?

Jill Urbane: Well, I always say follow your gut. Right. So if you get a response from a professional or somebody that is not aligning and sitting well with you, then you find somebody else. Right. You find somebody else? I get so frustrated. I mean, I mentioned it earlier. How many times the parents that I’ve been working with over the years have sought out help and then been poo-pooed by different different agencies and providers.

And you know when something’s not right. And you know when you wanna do something about it, so always follow your gut. And I’m really frustrated to hear that anybody said that to you about your son. I’m like, oh yeah. There’s there are so many things that you can do at home to work on that you don’t just sit back and wait, what the heck?  So frustrating. And you must have been like, ah, that’s not the answer that we were looking for.

Dr. Amy Moore: Yes, it was. And because in my mind, okay, I’m a child development specialist, but not a speech and language pathologist. So this is outside of the scope of my expertise is what I was thinking. And so I said, all right, well, they’re saying his tongue can’t do it yet so we’re gonna wait until his tongue can do it. Um, you know, but then he hit elementary school and the speech pathologist said, whoa, we have some articulation issues here that I can help with. Right. And so, yes. So he actually went through speech therapy, like formal speech therapy, two different times um, in elementary school, you know, separated by a year. So I think it was first grade and third grade mm-hmm . Um, and then in fifth grade, when he went through, uh, the LearningRx reading program, his trainer was a speech pathologist, and so she actually worked on some additional articulation issues, like while he was going through this reading intervention. So yeah. And the, and the child who’s now almost 18 sounds British.

Jill Urbane: Oh, okay.

Dr. Amy Moore: So he articulates too well now.

Jill Urbane: Well, and you know, and I wanna say to the listeners that there are normal sounds that are expected for young children. And a lot of times we’re worrying about ones that don’t come later. A lot of the big ones for children under the age of three year, the B the P and the M what we call the BIS the sounds that come from the front of the mouth.

Um, but even though we don’t worry about a lot of those other speech sounds until different ages and stages later on down the road, it doesn’t mean that as a parent, that if you see that your child is struggling, The motor planning part of speech, cuz that’s really what that is learning how to get the tongue, the lips and all of that stuff coordinated to be able to do those sounds. It doesn’t mean that you can’t still work on those things at home. Right? So focusing on doing sounds and actions in play, boom, boom, boom. Dot dot dot. Just trying to get them to do, to build what, what we call a sound inventory, you know? And that’s why like, when parents are like, well, what, what songs can I do?

And I’m like, sing the ABC song with your child a lot. Right. If it comes out and it doesn’t sound great from them. That’s okay. What we’re doing by singing the ABC song is we’re getting lots of practice. Kids who struggle with sound production need more re. To get those muscles and those neural pathways in the mouth, the lips, the tongue, the cheeks working.

So they need more repetition and more opportunity to practice to develop those, those pathways so that they can eventually get to, uh, better articulation sounds.

Dr. Amy Moore: Good advice. All right, so we need to take a break and let, uh, Sandy read a word from our sponsor LearningRx. And when we come back, we will continue our discussion with Jill Urbane.

Sandy Zamalis: (Reading sponsor ad from LearningRx)

Are you concerned about your child’s reading or spelling performance? Are you worried your child’s reading curriculum isn’t thorough enough? Well, most learning struggles aren’t the results of poor curriculum or instruction. They’re typically caused by having cognitive skills that need to be strengthened skills like auditory processing, memory, and processing speed. LearningRx one on one brain training and structured literacy programs are designed to target and strengthen the skills that we rely on for reading, spelling, writing, and learning.

LearningRx can help you identify which skills may be keeping your child from performing their best. The LearningRx team would like to help get your child on the path to a brighter and more confident future. Join the growing list of more than 100,000 children and adults trained at LearningRx. Give LearningRx a call at eight six six brain zero one. Or visit That’s

Dr. Amy Moore: We’re back talking to Jill Urbane about, uh, toddler speech development. So Jill, you actually have a course for parents to take on this topic. Talk to us about that and how they can get more information.

Jill Urbane: I do. I, uh, created a course called How to Get Your Toddler Talking and it’s based on my 20 plus years of work in homes with parents, with toddlers, with speech delays and what I think sets my program apart from some of the other programs is that whole child approach. It’s not just about the strategies for the speech, but it talks about how behavior is communication and what we can do to work on that, to help move them to that next stage stage.

It talks about how sensory process issues can get in the way of speech and language. If we have those little ones who are bouncing off walls and we can’t keep them still for five seconds, how can they learn and include strategies on helping to meet those sensory needs as well as how to incorporate language into that?

It also talks about some of the basic brain, um, science behind language that parents need to know so that we can work smarter and not harder as well as review of understanding play skills for toddlers. A lot of times parents are saying to me, why isn’t my child playing with other kids? And it’s like, oh, they’re not there yet. There’s all these different stages that they have to go through before they’re gonna be doing cooperative play. So helping to understand the developmental norms, what they should be expecting, identifying their toddlers’ language level and then starting there and building that foundation, using those foundational skills and making sure that those skills are solid so that as they move up the steps to that pathway of words, that that foundation is strong and solid and they’re gonna be ready.

My goal is always that by the time they get to three and four, that they are ready and, and on task and on, uh, age level with their communication skills, both comprehension and expressive. And so all of that is in my program.

Sandy Zamalis: So for the mom who’s listening right now, who’s had some big aha moments during this podcast, how can they connect with you?

Jill Urbane: They can find me on my website, which is, uh, That’s how they can find me. And they can find my course at the same,

Dr. Amy Moore: Easy.

Jill Urbane: Easy. Yeah.

Dr. Amy Moore: Jill, is there anything that you haven’t gotten to say today that you would like to leave our listeners with?

Jill Urbane: You know, I think the one thing that I would like to say is as a parent who myself had a child with language delays, I think a lot of times we feel like we need to let other people, um, take care of it. You know, like I, I don’t have the skills, I don’t know what to do. So I’m gonna trust the professional and that’s absolutely absolutely fine.

But what I found is a lot of times parents are like, well, I’m not sure what I can do when my child isn’t in therapy. Or when the therapist isn’t here, I’m not sure what I can do to keep moving them forward. And I always tell the families that I’m working with, the intervention takes place between our visits. It’s not what happens while I’m there. It’s what you do with it when I’m not, that’s where the magic takes place, because you have the relationship with the child. You have more opportunity and they’re gonna learn more during your daily routines. Meal times, bed times, then they are in one hour with me in the home coaching you.

Sandy Zamalis: They need that repetition, right?

Jill Urbane: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s the whole idea behind the program too, is to take the strategies and implement them into a daily routine that you’re already doing. It’s not about finding time to. Therapy with your child, because guess what? They don’t wanna do therapy with you. They wanna play with you. They wanna interact with you. They wanna eat with you. They wanna read books with you. They don’t wanna do therapy with you. Can I share just a quick story?

Dr. Amy Moore: Of course.

Jill Urbane: So I had this mom that I worked with many years ago and she was a teacher and her little guy had really, really impaired language. And he had moved on to our preschool program and, um, the school was using a core board with him, a picture, a picture board with him to, to give him a way to be able to communicate, cuz he really wasn’t able to get the sounds to come out. And, uh, she told me I ran into her and she said I was sitting there on the floor and I was getting flashcards out and I was showing him flashcards.

Right. Because she was a teacher showing him flashcards and she’s like, he went over to the refrigerator, grabbed his core board, brought it over and pointed to want play. She’s like, it was a moment for her. She was like, I, first of all, she didn’t realize that he really was able to even communicate in that way. And she’s like, that’s it. The flashcards are gone. All we do is play now. And it was just such an aha moment, you know, for her, that her little one could come to her and say, put the flashcards away, mom, I just wanna play with you. This is no fun.

Dr. Amy Moore: Sweet, but such a good lesson.

Jill Urbane: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Kids want, we gotta keep it natural and fun and they know when we’re trying to make ’em work. So yeah, it’s all about engaging in the daily routines, things that you’re already doing.

Dr. Amy Moore: Awesome. Jill, thank you so much for being with us today. We appreciate that you, um, had such great actionable tips and have shared your wisdom of 25 years of experience, um, doing this. And so, uh, thank you for taking time out of your busy day to  talk to us and to talk to our listeners about this. Um, if you would like more information listeners, um, about Jill’s work, like she said, her website is You can find her on Facebook and Instagram @thementormom, and we’ll put all of her links and handles, um, in the show notes as well as a link to get her course How to Get Your Toddler Talking.

So, thank you so much for listening today. If you liked our show, we would love it. If you would leave us a five star rating and review wherever you listen to our show. If you’d rather watch us, we are on YouTube. You can find us on every social media platform @thebrainymoms. So look until next time we know that you’re busy moms and we’re busy moms, so we’re out.

Sandy Zamalis: Have a great week.